Man sues Japanese broadcaster NHK for using too many foreign words… but can you stop language from evolving?


I was amused to see a recent news story about a 71-year-old Japanese man, Hoji Takahashi, who has sued Japan’s public television broadcaster, NHK. His reason for filing suit? He’s suffering “mental distress” because of what he considers NHK’s excessive use of foreign words.

He’s no elderly gadfly with a silly gripe. He’s a member of an organization that is dedicated to preserving the Japanese language, so this is an organized effort to try and stop the influx of foreign words. What foreign words, you ask? Here are a few cited by news reports including from the BBC:

If you tune into NHK’s news or entertainment shows, you can easily make out words such as “toraburu” for “trouble,” “risuku” for “risk” and “shisutemu” for “system.” I’ve been at my mom’s house when she has NHK satellite programming on and I’ve heard “toppu hoh-ty” for “Top 40” in a story about pop music, and many other words that I can make out as English, albeit somewhat mangled in pronunciation.

My mom isn’t a member of any group fighting this trend, but she’s griped to me plenty about the same issue.
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Photo shared by George Takei is a perfect cultural comment


Oh my…. ‘Nuff said. Tip of the hat to George Takei, who shared this piece of brilliance on his Facebook page. The photo now has over 200,000 Likes… in one day.

When white people have asked me (sorry, they’ve all been white people, no Asians, Latinos or Africans) what their tattoo means, I’ve half-jokingly told them “It means ‘I’m a dumbshit.'” or something to that effect. No one I know would ask me that, because they would know that I DON’T READ KANJI.

It’s like when non-Japanese people come up to me and introduce themselves by saying something in Japanese. I know only a little conversational Japanese….

Any Japanese person could tell at a glance that I’m Japanese American, not Japanese, and would not assume I could speak the language.

But that’s another blog post….

UPDATE: A reader, Linguarum, posted a link in the comments below to a site that actually goes to the trouble of translating Kanji tattoos off photos that people have submitted. The site is Hanzi Smatter and it’s a hoot.